Sunday 27 May 2018

'It looks like a lot of money but there is a lot expected of those people' - RTÉ boss defends sums paid to top earners

Ms Forbes said that the cost of the top ten talent is 1pc of RTÉ's total cost base

RTE Director General Dee Forbes arriving at Leinster House. Kildare Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
RTE Director General Dee Forbes arriving at Leinster House. Kildare Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ boss Dee Forbes was forced to defend the sums paid to its highest earning stars after it was put to her that it gave the impression that the cash-strapped station has "shedloads of money".

Ms Forbes is today appearing at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee where she is being quizzed on the broadcaster's use of licence-fee payers' cash.

The most recent figures for RTÉ's highest paid presenters show that Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy was paid €495,000 in 2015 while Ray D'Arcy was on €400,000.

Ms Forbes told TDs that RTÉ currently has "inadequate resources" and has seen a drop of more than €100m in the annual funds available to it between the years 2008 and 2016.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the list of top ten earners gave "the impression that RTÉ has shedloads of money" adding: "Whether you like that or not that is the impression that it gives.

"It’s then very difficult to argue that RTE is short of money," she said, asking how Ms Forbes squares that circle.

Ms Forbes said she appreciates why people might think that but defended the sums paid.

She said that the cost of the top ten talent is 1pc of RTÉ's total cost base.

She pointed out that 50pc of RTÉ's funding comes from commercial revenue and said it's incumbent on presenters - who she described as "the best in the country" to ensure strong audiences in order to be attractive to advertisers.

Ms Forbes also said there is a "competitive market place" for broadcasters and she said that there are some stars outside RTÉ who are "being paid probably even more than ours".

She said that her predecessor Noel Curran cut salaries by between 30pc and 40pc a number of years ago.

She said when contracts come up for review they will be assessed on the market at that time as well as other factors.

"I recognise that it looks like a lot of money but there is a lot expected of those people," she said.

Earlier Ms Forbes called on the government to modernise licence fee collection.

She said that there's a 15pc evasion rate resulting in a €37m loss every year.

She also argued that "outdated" exemptions for home with no TVs, but may use other devices leads to a further loss of €24m. 

Ms Forbes added: "Why is it acceptable that the TV licence fee collection system in this country is so inefficient that over €60m goes uncollected every year? And yes that is €60m.

"The State is failing to collect what it believes is an appropriate fee for having a TV licence and for the service that that funding underpins," she added.

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